Posts Tagged ‘family’

Triathlon Fun!

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Nancy has been training all spring and sumer for a local half ironman called the Sourdough Triathlon. The twins and I spent most of Saturday watching Nancy do her swim, bike, and run and she appeared to have a great time.
The twins had a great time helping Nancy set stuff up for the race.

Good enough of a time I am almost considering learning to swim just to do it next year. Perhaps not though – the swim section
looked decidedly unpleasant. Nancy seemed to enjoy it though.

Nancy had a fantastic race, and came in at about 6 hours 30 minutes. She had the definitely moral victory of racing on a low tech (but quite nice – it was her birthday present last year) hybrid bike, not a fancy road bike, and she did not walk any of the run. Hurray for Nancy!

The twins and I watched most of the race (there was a short break for nap time), and amazingly the twins had a really good time watching the racers go back and forth (the run and bike sections are out-and-back-and-out-and-back sort of affairs). I was very impressed by the Twins race watching stamina!

A Weekend with the Family

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

The family and I had a very busy weekend.  On Saturday we hiked up to Wickersham Dome.  Molly and Lizzy walked the entire way up to the dome by themselves.

There was quite a bit of stopping to check stuff out – the twins are continually amused by random things along the trail. Lizzy was quite fascinated with the flowers.

They made pretty good time even with the stops and had a blast hiking.

(Photo provided by Eli)

They even enjoyed the final climb to the top – after which of course everyone had a nice lunch and then rode in backpack carriers to the car while taking a nap.  Everyone being the twins that is.

On Sunday we headed out to Chena Lakes to spend the afternoon goofing off, playing in the water, and hopefully getting in some packrafting practice time. Nancy biked there along with Tom and her old school friend Eli who is in town for a conference. They appeared to have a good bike ride, but when we caught up with them they were having fun fixing a flat. Fortunately the twins were around to supervise the repairs.

Eventually we made it to Chena Lakes, where the twins got out their own bikes.

Eventually Nancy took the twins out for a nap time run in the Chariot, and Tom and I got out our packrafts and spent several hours splashing around in the lake. The water was fantasticly warm given it was a fairly cloudy overcast day. We spent a lot of time practising re-entering flipped packrafts – I think I flipped and got back in about 30 times. I was much, much faster by the end of the day. Spending a bit of time practising flipping is really worth while – it keeps you from panicking when you flip in moving water, and hopefully allows you get back in. Not panicking is pretty crucial if you don’t want to loose your paddle and possibly your raft – potentially leaving you with a long walk home. Chena Lakes is a great place to do this – the water is quite warm and the lake is normally not all that busy. The beach is pretty busy, but the rest of the lake is generally pretty unused.

A weekend with the family with a hike and float

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

On a super hot and dry day, the twins and I set off for Nome Creek campground. The plan was for Nancy to bike the 80 miles or so to the Campground while the Twins and I would drive. Later in the day another family along with Tom and Ms Marsh would join us. The drive out was fantastic, with a little smoke near Fairbanks which quickly cleared out as we left town. The twins snoozed the ride away, and we passed Nancy biking along at mile 50 or so. After reaching the camp ground the woke the twins up, and after a little grumbling about the rude awaking, they set off to explore the nearby sandbars.

They had lots and lots of fun exploring the sand and gravel, throwing rocks in the water, and other fun games.

After a couple of hours Nancy arrived and we all spend the afternoon together hanging out on the sandbars enjoying the sun. Eventually we were joined by the additional family and we all hung out having fun and enjoying the fine afternoon. After a dinner of pasta and cheese (a favourite of the twins) everyone hit the sack. Late in the evening Ms Marsh and Tom arrived and joined our encampment. The next day was nice and clear, promising good weather for the float and hike I had planned for the next two days. The twins were quite excited to be camping and quickly got up to go play in the sandbar again, after having a quick breakfast.

The breakfast menu was melon and cereal – yum yum!

After a slow morning Ms Marsh, Tom, and I set off to float down Beaver Creek. leaving Nancy to drive home with the twins. Our plan was to hike out on the Summit Trail the following day.

The water was pretty low – the Nome Creek gauge said 2 to 2.5 ft – which is a about a foot to two feet lower than the other time I floated it. I was not how the low water levels would effect stuff, but it turned out to be fine, though very slow.

Our first sign that something was different was when we reached the confluance of Nome and Beaver Creeks – last time we floated this section there was a nice and fun eddy line where the creeks came together. This time around there was no eddy at all, and the junction was hardly noticeable.

Beaver Creek was still float-able at these water levels, just a bit slow. Shortly after the confluence Ms Marsh found a very out of place trail sign that by the mile markers should have been just outside Windy Gap cabin. However we are well upstream of any trails heading to Windy Gap, and the only trail upstream of us is a dead end trail heading to Richards Cabin. Tom was quick to point out that it was also misspelled. How it got here was a mystery, so I decided to haul it out to Borealis and leave it there for BLM to ponder.

The sign had the added advantage of preventing Ms Marsh and Tom from playing bumper cars with me as they were quite worried about it’s not so sharp edges.

The float was quite a bit slower than when we did it last year – I think it took 9 hours total last year, and this year it took around 12, even though we took fewer breaks. There was quite a bit of mellow floating, bobbing along..

This was not all bad – I got to enjoy some mellow floating and enjoyed a fair bit of recliner time.

We ran into a few small rain storms and a fair bit of distant thunder, but nothing too intense.

We eventually reached Borealis, our takeout spot, and had dinner in the cabin and camped out nearby. In the morning we crossed Beaver Creek and started our hike out.

The hike begins on some very dilapidated board walk and then continues on the winter trail up to the summit trail. Last time I hiked this in the summer I noticed that the board walk appears to continue a ways after the winter trail turns off. I decided to check out the board walk and was surprised to see it continued for a fair bit and cut a bit of the tossuc slogging winter trail section of the hike.

Alas, after crossing the slue the board walk goes away and we were back walking on the tussocky winter trail.
On our hike up the Summit Trail Tom found several reminders of our winter adventures – he found a single stick of swix extra blue, and a White Mountains fuel tag.

After a shortish slog we reached the fine hiking of the Summit Trail – Tom was suitably excited.

The rest of the hike out was fantastic – the trail had great views and is in very good shape. the older sections of board walk had a large number of exposed nails which made things a bit treacherous at times.

The last section of trail was a bit of a mud fest. The trail used to look like this:

Now it looks like this:

Nancy, the twins, and I hiked it when BLM was revamping the trail with an assembly line of small bobcat like tractors.

At the time I had stopped to talk to the trail crew for a while, and they said the plan was to use “ditch and elevate” to remove the board-walk and have the trail dry in the summer and groomable in the winter. Its looking like a bit of a failure, as its a bit of a muddy mess now, in the driest spring I have experienced. Hopefully BLM will get the trail sorted out and have it reach some sort of drier state.

Once past the mud things went by quickly and soon we were at the parking lot, and before we knew it at Hilltop having burgers. Yum! Yum! The hike was fantastic, as was the float, though it would be a bit better to have done it with slightly faster water. Camping with the twins added extra spice and added a bit of extra spice – and of course fun was had by all!

A map:

More photos:

Beaver Creek-Summit Trail float hike

One last ski trip

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Spring is pretty nice in Interior Alaska. The days are long, the weather is warm, and there is still enough snow around for good skiing. The family and I decided to take advantage of all the glories of spring and headed out to Eleazar’s cabin in the White Mountains. Eleazar’s is about 12 miles from the nearest trail head, and a fairly mellow ski, in normal conditions. Hauling two three and three quarter year olds makes it a bit less mellow, but still doable. I had scouted out the trail two days before the trip was planned to make sure the trail was still ski-able, and while the first quarter mile or so was pretty bare, the rest was in great shape. We left town mid morning, and after a hour drive or so, we reached the parking lot and began the unloading processes. Traveling with kids complicates things a bit, so the unloading processes was pretty extended – the twins hot water bottles to prepare (traveling in luxury!), the chariot to assemble, snacks to ready, etc.

Eventually we were off and heading down the trail. The first bit was pretty muddy and low on snow.

The twins walked the first mile and a half – which was good as there was not enough snow for them to ride in the chariot.

It also got them nice and tired so by the time we had enough snow to load up into the chariot they were tired enough for nap time.

The bushes on the side of the trail were starting to melt out, revealing last years blueberries..

and cranberries.

Eventually nap time arrived and the twins were bundled up into the chariot and Nancy and I put on skis. The skiing was fast and fun – the trail was hard and a bit icy, but with some softer wax it was still quite good skiing.

Going down the steeper hills with the twins in the chariot was a bit tricky and I ended up walking down the really steep one. The chariot has quite a bit of mass and tends to give the puller the occasional hard push when going over moguls. On the steepest sections of trail I had to be careful as I was almost knocked over several times while walking. Fortunately we arrived at the bottom intact and after short time nap time was over and the twins were awakened and treated to snacks and entertainment while we skied along.

After a few more miles we reached the final hill to the cabin. The twins then were extracted from their comfortable quarters and they walked up the final hill to the cabin. The trail up was in great shape, but the last 100 feet or so was completely snow free.

Shorty after I reached the cabin the folks who were joining us on the adventure arrived – Trustin and Robin. They traveled by snow machine and had a good but interesting ride in. The snow free sections were apparently a bit challenging – the snowmachine did fine but the sled had a bit too much drag.

Eleazar’s is a wonderful cabin – its perched on top of a bluff that overlooks the Wickersham creek valley and has a great view. The twins had a great time exploring the cabin and the surrounding area. The cabin had a couple of interesting board games that the twins got quite a bit of mileage out of, as well as a loft. The loft was a great hit.

Eventually it was dinner time..

and then everyone turned in for the night. It was so warm the stove did not require stoking (or over-stoking as often is the case) which was quite refreshing – no trips from my warm sleeping bag to load wood into the stove were required. In the morning everyone enjoyed a nice breakfast of pancakes and bacon – except of course Nancy who made herself a bowl of cereal. My first attempts at pancakes were a bit of a failure – after the first bacon dripping assisted pancake I learned the “non-stick” pan I brought was more of a “stick” pan. I could not find my normal pan and had used one of Nancy’s pre Jay pans that I had never used before. Fortunately Trustin had brought butter and liberal use of it prevented any additional pancake disasters.

After lots of pancakes and bacon, we enjoyed a lazy morning of laying around goofing off, but alas eventually we actually had to pack up and get moving. The twins started off walking and got a good mile and half in before nap time arrived.

The ski out was uneventful but quite pleasant. On the last couple of miles we evicted the twins and they walked the last bit with lots of renditions of one of their favorate books, “We are going on a bear hunt”.

Togiak, our older dog, decided we were going too slow, and started taking naps on the side of the trail, curing up under spruce trees while we slowly dawdled the last mile or so.

Eventually we reached the parking lot and everyone loaded up. The dogs were quite happy to dive into the straw in the back of the truck and go to sleep.

The trip was super fun and a great way to end the ski season. The twins had a good time and I got quite a work out hauling them around. I brought violet Toko spray klister and used it on the way out. That stuff is quite amazing – it works quite well and less of a pain than standard klister with no more sticky tubes of doom.
Alas, the snow is almost gone now – I expect its now time to put the skis away. With some luck I will get in one bike ride on the trails before the snow softens up too much, and then I think the snow season will be done. Soon backpacking, pack rafting, and bike touring season will arrive – hurrah!

A family trip to Colorado Creek Cabin

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

On a wonderfully warm and sunny Saturday, the famly and I plus some friends headed out to Colorado Creek Cabin for the weekend. Colorado Creek cabin is perfect for family trips – its not a very long trip, only six miles, the cabin is fairly spacious, and the surrounding area provides lots of distractions. Trusten and his daughter Robin snowmachined, while the rest of us (the twins, Nancy, and her niece Rabiah) skied out. The twins did not actually ski, but instead rode in the comfort of the Chariot, and had a wonderful nap on the ride in.

I am always amused by the girls and how they view shortish ski trips – they get in the chariot, go to sleep, we ski to the destination, then they wake up .. Ta Da – we are there – like magic!
I pulled the twins on the way in and out. The trail into the cabin is fairly flat (besides a short climb near the beginning of the trail), and is a pretty fast ski normally. The trail winds though a valley of black spruce and crosses two small creeks, and is normally not all that exciting of a ski. Pulling the twins changed things a bit, as the extra weight made the uphills harder, and the down hills faster.. Quite a workout.
The first stream crossing normally has a bit of overflow. On the way in it was very manageable.

On the way out it was a different scene – all tore up with about a foot of water and broken ice. I had to take the skis off and tip the chariot way back, but we made it without the twins getting wet. Or in the twins case, even waking up from slumber land.
Once we made it to the cabin the Twins where pried out of their comfortable conveyance, they helped me gather firewood, start a fire, and get the dogs situated, and other cabin chores.

There was also the lots of snacking – riding in the chariot apparently generates quite an appetite!

Soon the rest of the crowd arrived and the fun begin. Our niece Rabiah was visiting from Boston and did a great job on the ski despite rough trail conditions.

The trail continues on past the cabin, up a large hill with a huge number of switchbacks, just steep enough for good sledding. Everyone spent several hours going up and down the hill on the sled we brought..

Eventually everyone retired to the cabin, where the younger generation where taught to play go fish by Nancy ( Lizzy kept insisting on asking people for cards she did not have, much to everyones amusement) among other entertainments. Trusten wowed us all with his fantastic sandwich retaining method – rubber bands.

After a good nights sleep everyone enjoyed pancakes and bacon (no bacon for nancy though – its hard being a vegetarian). I should point out that it was a good night of sleep for me, as I slept outside with the dogs – apparently Lizzy kept throwing off her covers, waking up, and complaining she was cold – its time for the twins to use sleeping bags it appears!
The ski out was fast, except of the broken up overflow. I ended up wading around in foot deep water and having to chance my socks, but it was not the end of the world. While heading back to town we stopped at Mias – the place of the perfect hamburger, and there was much happyness!

The twins go to Stiles Creek Cabin

Monday, December 7th, 2009

On a unnaturally warm Saturday, the family and I headed off to Stiles Creek cabin in the Chena River SRA. Molly and Lizzy got to ride in a sled hauled by the dogs and napped most of the way. It must be strange to go on ski trips by going to sleep as you leave the parking lot and wake up in at your destination..  We loaded up in the parking lot, strapped the girls (and Chicken, Lizzys latest stuffed animal friend) into the sled and took off.

The taking off part took longer than one would expect – getting the twins settled in, three dogs harnessed, and two adults onto skis takes a while, alas.

The Stiles Creek trail has been rerouted in the last year and has lots of switchbacks which slowed things down to a crawl occasionally as the sled tried to cut the switchbacks.  Eventually we made it past the switchbacks and things sped up a lot.

After a two hour nap, the twins woke up and demanded snacks.  Soon they were snacking on granola bars and dried pears while zipping along..  Ahh the luxury! 

Soon we arrived at the cabin, and the twins were taken out of their warm sled compartment and they got to help find wood, get the stove started, and of course more snacking. 

After snacking came playing outside, even more wood gathering, and finally dinner, followed by more snacking (also known as desert).  We were joined in the cabin by Margaret and Trusten and their daughter Robin.  Robin and Trusten came via snow machine, and Margret via skis.

I had made a trip to this cabin as a day trip several weeks earlier and after a half hour I had the inside of the cabin above 0f, thanks to the plentiful quality of fire retardant wood (green birch and alder burn oh so well) left by the previous visitors.  We had left a plentifully supply of wood that one could actually burn, but to be prepared, I skied down the last hill dragging a nice dry spruce log.

Dinner was a tasty selection of mixed pasta and Parmesan cheese for the younger generation and Indian food and pasta with spicy peanut sause for the adults.  Yum, yum!

 The younger crowd  got endless fun out of the cabins loft.  The stairs were a big hit, as were the glow sticks.
After a night of goofing off and mellowing out, morning came and we had to pack up and head out.  The trail heads up a steep hill right out of the cabin, so we headed off on foot.  Lizzy and Molly were quite the troopers, and made it to the top of the hill unassisted (if you don’t count several rations of grandma’s fruit leather and a granola bar each as assistance).
Robin and Trusten zipped away on their snowmachine, while we walked up the hill. Robin dropped a kitkat on the way out, which was very nice of her, as I was quite hungry.

Once up the hill the twins hopped into the sled and we zoomed off down the trail.

It was a little too hot for the dogs and they were less than happy going up one of the hills, but otherwise it was a uneventful ride out.

A Family Trip to Tolovana Hotsprings

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

On a sunny Saturday morning the family and I headed out to Tolovana Hot Springs for a 3 day weekend.  After a two and a half hour drive we reached the trail head, loaded up our packs and headed down the trail for the 11 mile hike to Tolovana.  Tolovana is a natural hot springs with a three cabins that can be rented.  The hot springs is a pretty wonderful place – there are several hot tubs and the water is without the sulfuric smell I normally associate with hot springs.  Its also pretty easy camping, as the cabin we had rented is quite large and includes such amenities as propane lights.  Its not a completely easy trip though, especially with the twins, as there is one large climb on the way in and two large climbs on the way out.  The trail is also quite exposed for most of its length and can be quite unpleasant when the wind is blowing.   Fortunately it was a wonderful late fall day on our way out, with little wind and temperatures in the 20s.  There was a dusting of snow at the parking lot so the girls started out in a sled but the snow quickly disappeared as the trail dropped down 1100 feet to the lowest section on the trail.

The girls took advantage of the hard frozen but relatively free of snow trail conditions and walked for a mile or so.  The lower sections of the trail wind though some fairly swampy bits that were fortunately well frozen and quite hard and dry.   This area burned several years ago and the trail now winds though a forest of standing dead spruce trees with some thickets of alder along the sides of the trail. 

The twins were quite the troopers and hiked quite a ways.  I had gotten them yactraks before the trip and they were quite proud to be putting them to use on the icer sections.

Eventually the girls tired out and then the hard part started, at least for the parents – nap time!  The girls were loaded up into the backpacks and into their “sleepy sacks” and enjoyed a warm and comfortable ride for the next hour.  One of the funny things about taking the girls on trips like this is that it has redefined pack weights for me – our packs were in the 70lbs range with the girls in them, so normal backpacking weight packs seem light in comparison.

The girls slept for the next hour and a half as we hiked over the highest section of trail and dropped down towards the hot springs.

The view from on top is quite spectacular, with a wonderful view of the Minto flats and the Tolovana river.  This was the first time I had ever been on this trail and not been on skis, and it has a completely different feel to it when you are walking.

The trail had recently received a haircut which had widened the trail considerably in sections, cutting down the willows that had been encroaching on the trail.  After we made it all the way in we learned that the trail had been trimmed by a “John Deer decked mower” according to the log book.  This led to interesting visions of someone riding the trail in a lawn tractor, which seemed unlikely.  In the section of the trail that goes along the “old runway” this was quite noticeable.  This should make the trail much more pleasant skiing in a couple of the narrower downhill sections.

While there was only a couple of inches of snow in the most snowy sections winter is definitely on the way.  We ran across a some blue berries sticking still holding on to the bushes and I tried to convince the girls these were still edible to no avail.

Eventually we dropped down from the dome and were back into the snow less area. 

By this time the girls had had enough pack time and they went back to walking.  Molly took a brief ride in the sled down the last hill and by the time we reached the stream coming out of the hot springs the snow was completely gone.

Shortly after we arrived at the cabin Tom and Marsh showed up and we all settled down for some after hike snacks (two containers of Stax, the pseudo Pringle ) and a soak.  The hot tubs at Tolovana are all fantastic.  They now have three hot tubs, including a new wooden “horse trough” looking one.  The temperatures in the tubs range from “lobster boiling” hot to just hot.   Initially the girls were a bit suspicious of the hot tubs but by the time the second day came they were big fans.

The girls had quite a bit of fun in our cabin.  There were a number of card and dice games that were quickly pressed into duty.

No back country trip is complete without the girl’s two lambs, named naturally Lamby and Fred.  The black footed and faced lamb is Fred, in case you are wondering.

On the second day Tom,Marsh, and Nancy disappeared during the middle of the day to go hiking and I hung out with the girls and read some fine escapist science fiction. Later in the afternoon I took off to explore the trails heading down the Tolovana river and the Dunbar Trail.  The last time I had been in this area was the winter after the forest fire and the trees in the area still smelled of smoke.  Things are quite a bit different now, and its w
as pretty fascinating to wander though the burn exploring.  And of course, enjoying another soak.

The next morning we all got up early in an attempt to make a quick start.  Tom managed to sleep though most of the early packing and breakfast making, and woke in time to have the last plate of pancakes and the remaining slices of bacon.

The dogs were pressed into duty as bacon frying pan cleaners –  its amazing how clean they can get a frying pan clean.  Rest assured, we also washed the pans afterwords.

Bacon powered (except for Nancy, who had her normal, vegetarian breakfast of milk and cereal) we headed off on the long walk out.  There is quite a bit more climbing on the way out and the weather was not as nice, but it was not that strenuous of a hike out.   The wind had picked up and was blowing 10 to 20 miles a hour, but otherwise it was a fine day.

The Tolovana parking lot was quite a different scene and the wind was blowing quite a bit harder.

I had a nice collection of rime ice on my truck.

All in all this was a wonderful trip and was very much enjoyed by all.  The twins in particular had a great time.  I think I will have to visit again in the fall – it was quite a mellow trip in and out.  Its often hard to get folks to make a trip out to Tolovana, as there are lots of horror stories about how its not a fun ski (too steep) and can be quite cold and windy.  The trail seems quite passable once it starts to frost up, so early-mid fall seems like a good compromise – the weather is not too harsh but its not too wet as to be unpleasant hiking. A couple of week earlier would probably have been more ideal.

Woofie and Bunny go Hiking

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

On a brisk Sunday morning the family and I set out for a day hike. We had planned on hiking to Stiles Creek Cabin for a overnighter, but Lizzy had a low fever the day prior so we turned it into a day hike instead. Lizzy and Molly started off walking and after a hour or so switched to being carried. The hike was wonderful – we did this hike in 2006 with the kids and the first mile was an utter mess – huge ruts, massive muddle puddles, and other general “Lets drive our ATVs though a muddy swamp!” madness. It had been getting worse in the last couple of years, and was getting so bad it was actually starting to make winter skiing unpleasant as the ruts where not completely filled with snow even in spring. In the last couple of years (I think last 2 years) Alaska State Parks had been in the process of doing some sort of reroute of the first 2 miles of the trail to deal with the really bad sections, and it appears they finally finished or at least reached some stage of completeness. The trail is now completely different – its dry and mostly free of killer mud holes and ruts. In fact, it would have been great mountain biking. I am going to have to come back here in the spring and try it out. Go State Parks! Its really refreshing to see the state spend money on things like trail improvements. The skiing this winter should be much improved too, as the reroute is not quite as steep. Parts of the old trail can be a bit tricky on skis – steep, fast, and a not a lot of room to snow plow.

Lizzy and Molly started off walking and carrying Bunny and Woofie in their backpacks.  After a brief stop to stick Bunny’s and Woofie’s head out (“No, no, Bunny can’t see” – Molly) we where off.

As mentioned before, the re-route has dried stuff up a lot – this is a good example of what the new section looks like.

Contrast this with the old trail, circa fall 2005.

The dogs had fun running around and exploring. Soon the “exploring” part will stop and they will have to start pulling pulks when ski season starts.

Molly outfitted herself with hiking poles for a while.  It is really rewarding to see the twins enjoy hiking.  I hope it lasts, as many adventures await.

The walk was quite beautiful, with the fall colors giving way to the winter gray, black, and white. I love this time of year, as there are constant reminders that the best season is about to arrive, Winter!

Eventually the little trekkers wore out and it was nap time. They rode for the next couple of miles in the backpacks, wrapped up in lots of layers.  Its funny – now that I have started carrying the twins, it really puts backpack weights into perspective – when I put on a normal multi-day pack for a trip without kids I am surprised how little it weighs.

After nap time came snack time, when the passengers where treated to a delightful repast, artfully served in a small zip lock bag. 

Eventually we returned to the trail head where the girls played on some left over trail hardening material (also known as a pile of rocks).  This kept them busy for almost a hour, which was truly amazing.

Just before we left Molly found a small stick that was sort of shaped like a person, and after some help from Nancy, soon became more person shaped and was christened the “Tree Man”.

All in all it was quite a fun way to spend a day.  We even made it to Mias, where Nancy and the twins had Korean food, and I was treated to a fantastic burger!   I am looking forward to skiing this in a month (or less if all goes well – bring on the snow!), and biking it next summer.